7.3 Justice: Creating a just society, based on the right of all to a dignified, secure existence

7.3.1 What can be done now to advance the cause of justice and open the door to a just, sustainable society?

All of the justice issues that may ultimately need to be addressed through a new constitution and legal system, established by a revolutionary green social democracy, should be fought for with determination now, wherever possible compelling new laws or enforcement of existing ones which propel society in a more just direction. Such a fight is essential as a brake on the trend within late capitalist society towards ever greater despotism. Without such a struggle, corporate rule would become absolute. If we were not to wage the struggle for justice with all the urgency that is merited, fascism, the black hole to which some of our ruling elite might otherwise lead us, could completely envelope society, blocking all the exits. In that sense, the fight for human rights is the fight to keep the door open to a future beyond capitalism.

Given the varying circumstances of the peoples' struggles, the specific emphases of these struggles towards greater justice will be variable across the globe, at least up to the time when green social democracy prevails globally. The question of what the priorities should be and what can be accomplished prior to the achievement of a green social democracy needs separate analysis within each country and by each group struggling for its rights.

7.3.2 What needs to be done by green social democratic governments, when these come to power, to establish a just society?

Clearly, the first thing a green social democratic government can do is enforce all the rights that the people have already formally achieved. But inevitably the first green social democratic governments will be faced with entrenched legal systems designed to prioritize the rights of private property owners to exploit people and nature for private benefit. To set the country in a new direction, a new constitutional mandate and new and amended laws will be needed.

The elements of justice identified below are all subjects of current struggle. The convening of a constitutional discussion and corresponding assemblies should provide the people an opportunity to build all of these elements into their new or amended constitutions. The entrenchment of all these fundamental rights and their enforcement should be an immediate task of a green social democratic government when it comes to power at the behest of a revolutionary people.

The Rights of Indigenous Peoples

These rights should include all those specified in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and any additional rights that indigenous peoples may have obtained through treaties with colonizing governments.

The Rights of Nations and National Minorities

National Rights. Wherever a people share a common territory and have a distinct language and culture from their neighbors, they have the natural right to sovereignty, including all decision-making rights concerning education, language and culture and any other sovereign rights up to and including the right to form a sovereign government over the territory in which they constitute a majority. The exercise of these rights does not preclude their right to join with some of their neighbors in a common political unit, while retaining specified national rights, including those over education, language and culture.

Rights of National Minorities. Wherever a people have a distinct language and culture from the majority within the territory in which they reside, they have natural rights to maintain and develop their language and culture and for that purpose to decision-making rights over the schools and cultural institutions needed in accord with these rights.

Freedom from All Forms of Discrimination. In accord with the aim of human solidarity, the constitutions of all green social democratic countries should explicitly proclaim the rights of nations and national minorities and prohibit any form of discrimination on the basis of national or ethnic origin.

The Rights of Immigrants and Emigrants

Driven by poverty and environmental degradation and seemingly better conditions in other countries, millions of people continue to emigrate from their home countries, often to the very countries whose leading capitalists have been most successful in extracting wealth from abroad. Whether fleeing from poverty or environmental disaster, immigrants make substantial contributions to the countries they adopt. Nevertheless, they are usually denied for a lengthy period of time, if not for life, the full citizenship rights accorded the citizens of the countries to which they have moved. Today this reality constitutes one of the greatest abuses of fundamental human civil rights.

The aims of a green social democracy include the end of great wealth and income inequality and the curtailing of activities responsible for environmental degradation, the primary reasons motivating emigration. The logical corollary is that all residents of a country should enjoy all the rights that country accords its citizens.

The Rights of Labor

The achievement of labor's moral rights, as long as capitalism is politically dominant, is inevitably opposed by the centralized political power of capital, today primarily concentrated in enormous oligopolistic companies and their principal owners and directors. These companies customarily operate at one or more steps removed from the majority of workers whose labor they exploit, including physical distances that can cross national boundaries and even span the globe.

So-called "public" employees are an example of the dilemma all working people face. Who are their real employers? Who should be held to account for abuses of their labor rights? Ruling politicians frequently claim, in effect, that just, dignified incomes and working conditions for public servants come at the expense of the public. But the principal beneficiary of reductions in public services, reduced incomes and worsening working conditions for public sector workers is evidently the same as for all other employees. Increasing wealth and income inequality mean that the beneficiaries are those who have already achieved the greatest personal incomes and wealth, the already wealthiest, primarily consisting of the principal owners and directors of oligopolistic capitalist businesses.

Working people in all countries have not only the right to fight back against abuses from their immediate employers (usually intermediaries in the capitalist food chain) but more directly against the ruling oligarchies and, in particular, the governments these oligarchic capitalists essentially control. The main battle of labor today is a political one. Capitalist oligarchy – and, in the first place, its political representatives - must be held responsible for the abuse of labor if that abuse is ever to end.

The emphasis in the struggle for labor rights needs to shift from defense to offense. The moral abuses now legally practiced by employers need to be ended by making them illegal. Employers need to have as part of their legal obligation, subject to criminal penalties, the responsibility to

  1. Bargain collectively with their employees;
  2. Provide safe, healthy, pleasant working conditions;
  3. Include their employees as equals in all business and work-related decisions, including those concerning their own and the general public's health, safety and welfare;
  4. Offer just remuneration for work.

Beginning now and into the period of revolutionary government, the battle for these rights needs to be fought out politically – the only arena where they can be won. The race to the bottom will then, and only then, come to an end. By definition, green social democracy would be the result, at first in some countries, ultimately across the globe.

Who would be left as employers when employees have these powers? We should not buckle to those who threaten working people with questions like this. The answer should be given directly. Only employers who do not abuse labor's moral rights might be left when those moral rights become the law of the land.

With a revolutionary people holding the dominant political power in a country, however, the situation thus described is likely to change, and could change rapidly. Working people ultimately have the natural right to make all the decisions concerning what they produce, for whom, and why. In a green social democracy, the employer-employee relationship is likely, at least over time, to come to an end, to be replaced by a society owned and governed by the associated producers, understood to be all the people engaged in either the market or non-market economy.

As a reminder from our prior discussion of the distinction between market and non-market sectors of the economy, the market economy in a green social democracy would correspond to production of goods and services according to the principle "from each according to their ability to each according to their work". This part of the economy would continue to be characterized by the use of money in the exchange of goods and services. The continuing existence of an employer-employee relationship in a green social democracy, however, would be up to the majority working at any enterprise, who would have the right to be their own bosses when the existing bosses falter (and even sooner if their bosses use violence or their economic power to oppose the new rights of labor).

The non-market economy, on the other hand, corresponds to production according to the principle "from each according to their ability to each according to their needs" and characteristically takes place even today through free exchange, without the requirement for money, employees or employers. The growth of the non-market economy at the expense of the market one would unquestionably alter the character of human relationships. Employer-employee relationships, as well as money, would disappear accordingly.

It is our view that the requirement of a gradual replacement of the market economy by the non-market one should be among the new constitutional laws of a green social democracy, one of the fundamental rights of labor. Increasing labor productivity in the market economy should translate, at least in part, into reduced hours of work, freeing up time for voluntary activity, including self-development and contributions to the non-market economy.

The Right of All to a Healthy, Sustainable Environment

Today proclaimed as a moral right and an intergenerational responsibility, the right of all to a healthy, sustainable environment needs to be made a fundamental law, encoded in the constitution of every country. As such it would join the crowning of labor rights to spell the end of capitalism as a system of exploiting nature and people. Such exploitation would then be in violation of the fundamental laws of every country.

Whereas today there are few if any capitalists who would risk losing the competitive advantage they might otherwise gain by doing a more effective job of exploiting nature and labor, the translation of the moral rights of labor and the right of all to a healthy, sustainable environment into the fundamental laws of the land would in combination deal capitalism, at least as we know it, a mortal blow. The only "capitalism" likely to survive would be in the form of competition in the market part of the economy to do the best job possible of protecting nature, contributing to the development of people and improving the quality of life. Even then, the people collectively – and not the private owners of capital – would have the ultimate right through their democratic control of government to allocate any profits generated, essentially negating the definitional rights of the capitalists as a social class.

The Right of All to a Just Distribution of Wealth and Income

The continuing existence of poverty in societies that have more than enough to meet the minimum requirements of every person needs to come to an end; but that will only happen when the ending of poverty becomes a legal obligation binding on government and business.

A universal requirement for the ending of poverty and the establishment of just, stable human communities is the translation of the moral right of all to a just distribution of wealth and income into a constitutional right, an obligation of society, in the first place of government. In our view, this obligation of government should include the responsibility to

  1. Transfer an annually increasing share of resources, income and wealth to the commons;
  2. Create increasing equality of opportunity to manage wealth in the public interest; and
  3. Fulfil the right of all to a social dividend, that is, a combination of income, private shelter and personal living space that at least meets the minimum needs of each family and single individual.

We would also argue for the constitutional requirement of measured progress towards the equal distribution of private income and wealth. The combination of these constitutional obligations would mean a law governed transition to a communal society, one in which all property would in the end be held and shared in common, beyond that relegated to personal privacy and living space. With the retention of stewardship responsibilities and usufruct rights on an equitable basis, all the environmentally and socially positive aspects of allocation to persons, families and groups would be maintained while most of the socially and environmentally destructive aspects of private accumulation would be eliminated. The pace of change should be neither slower nor quicker than necessary, however, allowing individuals the time and opportunity they may need to accommodate voluntarily and purposefully to the environmentally and socially needed changes.

The Right of All to the Highest Quality of Health Care and Life-Long Education and Development

The right of all to a high quality of health care and life-long education is fundamental to the achievement of a high quality of life. We should expect these to be fundamental commitments of the green social democracies we fashion to replace neoliberal capitalism. Making high quality health care and life-long education a human right recognized in each country's constitution would unequivocally establish public responsibility for universal health care and education.

Long envisioned as fundamental to a high quality of life, a high quality of health care and educational services are the expected outcomes of establishing governments that truly are of the people, by the people and for the people, unfettered by profit-driven megalithic private corporations and their principal owners. Commitment to equal access to these fundamental services would also lead society towards the provision of free public transportation and the other means necessary to access nature beyond the cities in which most people now live, and to adding to the commons all the achievements of science and human ingenuity.

Universal access to goods and services that in most capitalist countries are considered outside the spheres of health care and education but are essential to them should become the norm, rather than the exceptions. Included in addition to ready access to a healthy natural environment should be ready availability of high quality food and ready access to recreational and athletic facilities and training, and to the world's accumulated inheritance of culture, knowledge and information, to name but a few of the consequences of establishing as a universal human right the highest quality of health care and education.

Equal Rights

Fundamental to social inclusion and human solidarity is the equality of rights, free from all forms of discrimination, including but not limited to those based on sex, race, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religious or other beliefs. Equality was among the banners raised centuries ago in the struggles to replace feudal regimes with capitalist democracies. Yet after centuries of struggle, there still remains a canyon between the goal and reality.

The principal explanation for this historical delay, we believe, is the self-interest of exploitative ruling classes (whether as slave-owners, feudal lords or, today, capitalists) and the culture that emerges to support their rule. For centuries, the strategy of divide and rule has prevailed under capitalism, setting one group of workers against another to make them all more amenable to a race to the bottom in wages, rights and benefits, invariably leaving the victorious capitalists with an increasing share of the income and wealth created by all. It is today only with the end of neoliberal capitalist rule that we can be assured of a reasonable opportunity to achieve equality of rights, including all the civil rights to which humanity has long aspired.

The Right of All to Peace and Security

The need for peace and security has never been greater, threatened as we are today by the existence of weapons of mass destruction and an irrational competitive drive for short term private gain at the cost of Earth's capacity to sustain human existence.

Our present ruling classes and their neoliberal political representatives have repeatedly attempted to justify their threats and acts of military and police violence by invoking this real need of all of humanity for peace and security. But the use of force and violence to maintain the rule of slave-holders, feudal lords and oligarchic capitalists has never produced enduring peace and security. Rather, the struggle to obtain and secure the right of all to peace and security is a principal motivation for the struggle to move beyond capitalism, building human solidarity and cooperation in the process of achieving a new system, one with the broad features we have ascribed to a green social democracy.

7.3.3 Associated cultural change

Changes in the constitution and laws of a country are likely to be the easy part of the struggle for a just, sustainable society. After centuries of capitalism, colonialism, gender inequality and in some countries slavery, among other inequities, it will take vigilance and a continuing, concerted struggle over many decades against the continuation and recurrence of injustice, especially in the many new guises it is likely to take before it disappears as a fundamental characteristic of human society.


This website was launched September 1, 2010 in support of a green social democratic alternative to neoliberal capitalist policy and practice. The primary result is a work by Charles and Karen McFadden of seven chapters, grouped under the title, Towards a Green Social Democratic Alternative to Capitalism available here in pdf and html formats.

Below under the heading What’s New can be found the most recent materials posted on this website, including opinion pieces, book reviews, articles and selections from the 2017 edition of the main work.  For the interest of new and returning visitors, new materials will be included quarterly.

What's New


Authors' Preface

1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

6.0 The socialism we need against the "socialism" of the 20th century

6.8 Additional concerns about 20th century variants of "socialism"

6.9 The people united!

7.1 Policy alternatives and political movements to advance them


Charles and Karen McFadden, Is revolutionary transformation on the agenda

Charles and Karen McFaddenHumanity on the Brink

Charles and Karen McFaddenMovements of Resistance to Movements for System Change

Charles McFaddenTranslating Green Principles into Education Policy and Practice

Charles and Karen McFadden, The Role of Revolutionaries in the Labor Movement


Charles and Karen McFadden, “The Shape of Water” as an Antidote to the Age of Trump 

Charles McFadden, Decolonizing the U.S. & Canada: The People United for a More Just Sustainable Future

Karen and Charles McFaddenCan emergent early 21st century neo-fascism be defeated without coming to grips with late 20th century restructuring of capitalism into a global system

Karen and Charles McFaddenA Dominant Capitalism or a Sustainable Environment? Why we can't have both.


William I. RobinsonThe Crisis of Global Capitalism and Trump's March to War

William I. RobinsonTrumpism, 21st Century Fascism, and the Dictatorship of the Transnational Capitalist Class


George HewisonWINNIPEG 1919 & THE COLD WAR

George HewisonArt Manuel - "Unsettling Canada

George HewisonThe NDP and LEAP


Albert Einstein, David Swanson, Jill Stein, Chris Hedges, William I. Robinson, and others Selected articles for Winter 2018



1.7 The dynamics of capitalism as a system and the limits of single issue reforms

2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

3.1 The challenge of a moribund economic system

3.7 Public banking: A cornerstone of a green social democracy

4.7 Economics and culture

6.5 Using the non-market economy as an opportunity to begin moving beyond capitalism


1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

2.0 Theoretical Perspective: Defining Green Social Democracy

2.5. Socialism and green social democracy in historical materialist theory

4.3 Culture in historical perspective

5.1 Contrasting a green social democratic world with the currently prevailing, but challenged neo-liberal one

6.2 Socialism and capitalism as coexisting social systems


2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

5.7 Defeating neo-liberal capitalism: The role of social movements

7.3 Justice: Creating a just society, based on the right of all to a dignified, secure existence

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) applies to all work posted on this website except that which appears with authors whose last name is other than McFadden, in which case standard copyright should be assumed to apply.